Baptism of fire as journalists suffer injuries in the hands of guards

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This scenario leads to miscommunication and results in a rotten society full of immoral, brutal and inhuman leaders whose mission is to rob the only hope of Mwananchi.
My mother always told me that everything happens for a reason.
It is because of the Kakuzi assault that I got greatly connected to the famous Kenya Union of Journalists and other bodies such as Reporters Respond Team, which I reckon as my first mothers in the industry. Before this assault, I was just a drop in the ocean in the vast media industry.
Being fresh in the profession, I am enthusiastic about assignments. So on September 2, I was happy that a news event was taking place near my locality. It was a demonstration by Gititu Secondary and Primary schools against alleged grabbing of school land by Kakuzi Limited.
It was the second demo I was covering on the same matter and that’s why perhaps the Kakuzi guards were longing to tear my flesh.
The dry field was fully dressed with over 150 green uniformed security guards armed with ‘rungus’’.
Little did I know that those rungus were going to leave scars on my body.
And before the demos were underway, the guards’ eyes were focused on us like eagles. Their eyes darted once in a while to our cameras.
When the action began, we went to work, our cameras capturing the events – the best shots and sound bites for the days’ news.
The game changed within a minute. The news gatherers became the news makers.
The guards confronted us mercilessly. My colleague James Mburu, an NTV camera person, and I were on the dusty ground receiving heavy rungus from about ten guards. They ferociously hit us everywhere – and anywhere.
We tried to explain to them about our mission which was to report news, but this fell on deaf ears.
The attacks worsened when students joined the battle to save us. At that moment my mind was staring at possible death or permanent injury.
Then a voice that under the circumstances sounded angelic said, “Stop! Stop!”
When the beating halted, my colleague and I counted our losses.
I had lost my digital voice recorder and my laptop was smashed by the intensive beatings. I am glad it took most of the vicious blows.
When we found our way out, we reported the matter at the Makuyu Police station but after reporting we were referred to Ithanga Police station since Kakuzi was within Gatanga constituency. We complied and recorded a statement. We then got treated at the Makuyu Hospital and issued with P3 forms. Th e case is now being handled by the DCIO Gatanga and our lawyer, Ann Machuki is following closely.
This lawyer is representing us courtesy of the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ).
In fact, KUJ has been with us since we were attacked, always encouraging us and ensuring us of getting justice.
The Union’s lawyer says she will not relent until justice is served. We are happy that there was KUJ to lean on at our lowest moment.
Through the Union, James and I got refuge and financial support from a foreign body from Netherlands, Reporters Respond Team, and now we are set and ready with courage to continue serving the public.
This assault just made us more resilient and installed more power upon us to do our work to the best of our ability. I am in journalism by choice not by force.
‘Assault first serious threat in seven years of journalism’ – James Gaita Mburu’s story
It was on September 1,2016 at around 9pm when I received a call from someone alerting me about a demonstration to be held the following morning at Kakuzi company’s grounds. The caller identified himself as a parent in the nearby Gititu Secondary School.
The parent explained that the company had grabbed a piece of the school land and the demo was to protest against the injustice. The parents and students were participating.
This was going to be a good story that brings to fore the injustices big companies and people mete on the helpless.
When I woke up the following morning, I was in high spirits. The Kakuzi-Gititu land dispute was going to be brought to the public through the media and I was part of this.
I believed that by highlighting this story, the authorities will deal with the issue of land injustice at Kakuzi once and for all.
I left my home in Thika town and arrived at Makuyu stage where I met a colleague, Julius Kariithi, from Royal Media Service (Inooro FM). We boarded a bodaboda to Gititu Secondary School and arrived at about 8:30am.
At the gate, we met a KBC reporter, Kioko, who had arrived earlier talking with the students and their parents.
Ten minutes later, the students started matching towards the disputed land where Kakuzi had erected a fence. Kariithi and I were slightly ahead of the students and as they started pulling down the fence, I saw more than 100 Kakuzi company guards fast approaching.
They were armed with rungus.
The students hauled stones at them but the guards kept charging forward as they threw back the stones at the students. Stones flew over us and we had to take cover from the missiles and lay on the ground.
At that moment, the guards reached us and without warning, they started hammering us with the rungus while shouting “ndio hawa, ua kabisa! (They are the ones, kill them!”
But they kept hitting me. The rungus were landing all over my body.
I tried my best to protect my head. For a moment I thought they would smash my brain.
When I looked up, I saw Kariithi also on the ground writhing in pain.
Oh, where was my camera?
The one I was using to record the demo was smashed and I watched it in horror. The other one that was hanging from my shoulder was gone!
I felt a sense of nakedness.
It was quiet around us.
We remained on the ground for a while but we had to get out of the place despite our injuries.
We made our way to the police station in Makuyu and reported the assault.
Later, we were treated at Makuyu Hospital and discharged.
After I went home, my situation worsened. I went to Thika Level 5 Hospital for further checking and the doctor prescribed medication which I am still taking.
At this time, I got a call from the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) promising to help me get justice. KUJ gave us a lawyer, Ms Ann Machuki, who is handling our case now. Kariithi and I expect justice to be served to the guards for assaulting us and the company for allowing this clobbering in their compound.
On September 21, 2016, I was issued with P3 form from Makuyu Police station and two days later, doctors at Thika Level 5 Hospital filled it in.
I took it back to the Makuyu Police station. When you are at your lowest, it is really good for your union to come up and say they will stand by you to the end.
I want to thank the KUJ for offering me emotional support and legal representation. The Union also went further to request the Netherlands’ Reporters Respond for material support.
Says Erick Oduor, the KUJ Secretary General, “It is our responsibility to defend press freedom. This can only be achieved if journalists are able to work in a safe environment. The Kakuzi incident cannot be tolerated and as a union, we are going to pursue the guards to ensure they face justice. We want them charged with assault and destruction of property.
“In the meantime, the union has been able to secure support from Free Press Unlimited who have helped the journalists to replace the broken cameras and laptop. These journalists are still new in the field and needed support to build their career.”

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